A bunch of new laws went into effect in Florida today, several of them designed to have serious impact on public education. The one that’s received the most publicity is HB 7069, which could have been named the Charter Aggrandizement Act. It’s a shotgun approach to “reform” that includes a $400 million jackpot to encourage new charter schools to locate near public schools—as in, right across the street from them. And as if nearly half a billion dollars isn’t a sufficiently lavish giveaway, this new statute also requires public school districts to share a portion of their capital funding with the charter schools (in addition to the existing requirement to share their operating budgets), thus essentially underwriting the construction costs of the new schools.
And if the shotgun approach isn’t destructive enough, there are two other bills aimed like laser scopes directly at a couple of the key principles of public education.
SB 436, which should be known as the Eliminate the Church/State Separation Act, is disingenuously billed as a measure to “safeguard” students’ and teachers’ rights to express their religious beliefs while in public schools. Uh-huh. There are news stories nearly every day that identify student and teacher rights that are clearly in need of protection. But, instead of any of them, this dubious “right” is what the legislators chose to enshrine?
And, finally, HB 989 revises the policy on instructional materials to allow any resident of the district to challenge books and other materials being used in the public schools. Any resident, not just parents. This, in other words, is the Return of Book-Burning Act.
It’s as if the legislators are determined to turn the phrase “Florida education” into an oxymoron.
2 thoughts on “Education “Reform” in Florida”
I have two grandchildren. One is just 4, but the other one is 13 and going into 8th grade in a public school in Gulf Breeze, FL. She spent her first six years in a private Episcopal school, and made the choice to go to public school last year. She’s very bright, and wants to be a Paleontologist, has since she was about 3. And hopes to go to Colorado School of Mines after high school.
I shudder to think what she might run into in science classes aound here. This part of the state is EXTREMELY conservative, so I fear the worst.
I encourage her to think scientifically as much as possible. In fact, a couple of years ago I read Neil Shubin’s “Your Inner Fish,” then went to B&N and bought her a copy. She devoured it in a day or two, then wrote him a fan letter. She was thrilled when she got a note back from him, saying he appreciated her interest in science and hoped she would stick with it.
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It might be illuminating to know her reasons for her decision to switch to the public school system, especially whether it had more to do with her experience of the private school or her expectations of the public school. As a budding paleontologist, she may not be at as great a risk as a student of, say, Constitutional law or evolutionary biology. On the other hand, paleontology does presume that the planet is more than a few thousand years old.